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Maine and Figueroa

By Howard Megdal ~ April 8th, 2010. Filed under: Howard Megdal.

I have made no secret of my belief that the Mets misused Nelson Figueroa. But I think yesterday illustrated to what extent this is true.

Earlier in the day, Figueroa was claimed by the Phillies. That night, John Maine pitched against the Marlins.

Now, there is ample reason for the Mets to give Maine a chance to reclaim a spot in the rotation ahead of Figueroa. He is younger, he’s had more major league success already, and his stuff is better.

Well, was better.

Maine regularly sat in the upper 80s with his fastball last night, a far cry from his 93-95 of years past. His change and slider were both coming in around 83-84. So not only was the fastball not particularly fast, it had very little differential from his other two pitches- both of which have essentially no speed differential from one another.

Let’s contrast this with Figueroa, whose only knock, remember, is the questionable one as to whether or not he has major league stuff. Last season, Figueroa threw fastballs that averaged 88.2 miles per hour- right where Maine was working last night. He also threw a slider that averaged 82.4 MPH and a changeup at 81.6 MPH- so on average, some additional differential between both of those pitches and his fastball than Maine had.

Figueroa, of course, also has a curveball at 73.3 MPH, one he threw more than 13 percent of the time. So in addition to bettering Maine’s weapons from last night, he has an additional one in his arsenal.

And while Figueroa clearly knows how to deploy his array of pitches, we still don’t know what John Maine can do with his repertoire.

There are two conclusions to draw from this, I think. The first is that while it is reasonable for the Mets to begin the season with John Maine over Nelson Figueroa in the rotation, it certainly behooved the team, given the questions about Maine’s ability to pitch at this velocity (not to mention the injury concerns) to have Figueroa around as well. That is, unless Sean Green’s ability to not pitch was indispensable.

The other is noting where Figueroa ended up. He was signed by the Phillies to pitch out of long relief, due to multiple injuries to the team’s rotation and bullpen. In other words, a guy who is arguably more effective than the Mets’ number two starter (yes, I know this is a relatively meaningless distinction, but to turn it on its head, it isn’t remotely clear that Maine ISN’T the Mets’ number two starter, either) is a decent relief option, after multiple injuries, for the team New York is chasing.

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Howard Megdal is the Editor-in-Chief of The Perpetual Post. He covers baseball, basketball and soccer for Capital New York, MLBTradeRumors.com, New York Baseball Digest and has written for ESPN.com as well as numerous other publications. He is the Poet Laureate for SBNation New York. His book about Jewish baseball players, “The Baseball Talmud,” is available for purchase on Amazon.com and wherever books are sold. His next book, "Taking The Field", is available for pre-order on Amazon.com and will publish in May 2011.

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4 Responses to Maine and Figueroa

  1. Tommy2cat

    The Mets will sorely miss Figueroa’s dedication and reliability as the season progresses. He earned a place on the roster, if not in the rotation. The fact that Mejia and Green – who had options – received spots on the pitching staff ahead of him is completely insensible given the question marks that remain for the rotation.

    Clearly, Omar is an idiot.

  2. metsfan73

    Wait until Philly releases him when Romero, Lidge, et al come back. Do the Mets go back after him? If so, does he turn them away. The Mets problem is they guaranteed four of the five starters positions when only one, Johan, has earned that distinction. Maine has been abysmal for two years (going into year three). I know he has been injured, but by now he should be able to pitch.
    The Mets treated Figgy similar to the way Church was treated and Heilman too. Remember, Heilman was a starter who pitched a one hitter, and two starts later was relegated to the bull pen. They promised him a shot to start again, so he pitched in the AFL and was dominant. Showed up in Spring Training, and was dominant. He fulfilled everything the Mets asked. So, they sent him back to the bull pen and made Brian Bannister the starter…

  3. Steve

    Figueroa is 35 with 13 or so wins in his career – if you are saying that the Mets will desperately miss him, it’s a sign that this organization should just throw in the towel for the season again….

  4. GravediggerHebner

    After reading this post I was going to leave a reply, but Steve already covered it for me. Thank you Steve.

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